Dang Excellent Submission

John Ramsey Miller is very much impressed with this submission. What can I say? It starts with the end, or does it? The bubbles tickling as they exit. Vibro dance. It’s all here. Just read it and agree. 
Nerve Damage
Beads of sweat glowed on sun-drenched, silken skin. She lay on the diving board, positioned on her stomach, face resting on folded arms. The wickedly delicious events of the morning left her physically sated.  Her other appetites blazed. The cell phone rested within easy reach. Any moment the call that would make it happen. From captive princess to ultimate victor; she’d outsmarted them all. She basked in the sun and the brilliance of her imminent triumph. 
Jester, her King Charles spaniel and favorite creature on earth, sat atop the poolside settee. He startled as the ring-tone trilled and the phone vibro-danced on the board’s grainy surface. She picked it up and noted the incoming number. She closed her eyes, savoring the moment. She raised the phone.
Before the device reached her ear, it dropped from her hand, bouncing off the board and splashing into the water below. 
The muscles of her forearms quivered as a freakish spasm passed through her body.* Jester jumped off the settee with a yelp. He crouched, whining, paws extended and belly pressed tight to the ground. 
Weakness cloaked her. She struggled to her elbows. Her limbs failed and her shoulders twisted as her now unresponsive arm acted as a lever that rolled her, as if in slow motion. Her muscles would not respond. She summoned one weak cry as her body hit the water.   
Her face plunged under the surface. Internal commands to swim and thrash yielded nothing. The fresco on the bottom of the pool rotated before her fixed and unblinking eyes as she spun and sank. Can’t move shrieked through her consciousness. Her heart pounded in her chest and ears. Water passed through her nose and mouth. Tiny bubbles rushed for the surface, tickling in their exit. Fluid advanced down her throat and balloons of air escaped, belching out and up. The reflex imperative to cough and gag was insistent but her body did not respond.
Water flowed down her windpipe, the dense and cool sensation terrifyingly foreign but unmistakable. It invaded her lungs. Like a continuous first breath on an icy winter’s morning, but it was not air. And it did not stop.

22 thoughts on “Dang Excellent Submission

  1. To whomever posted this:

    Please send me the rest. I’m hooked!

    Excellent job of engaging the reader and piquing interest. No one could put down this manuscript after reading the first page.

    Congratulations and good luck,

    I look forward to seeing it in print.

    Victoria Allman
    author of: SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain


  2. I’ll stipulate that it’s engaging and very good, but to my eye, it’s not without problems.

    First of all, the business of the phone confused me. It took me a whole paragraph to figure out that her arm hadn’t fallen asleep, or that the dropping of the phone was anything to be concerned about. Then there’s the random asterisk. I presume that that was a space break, but if so, I don’t get its significance. Also, the business with Jester doesn’t ring true to me. It’s an odd thing for her to be watching as she’d being murdered.

    The second issue I have with the story is the mechanics of drowning. Water doesn’t make it to people’s lungs until after they are unconscious. In real time, the process of drowning is essentially the process of choking, because the epiglottis (sp?) won’t let the water pass the larynx.

    Yes, I’m picking at an otherwise outstanding piece, but hey, I gotta be me.

    John Gilstrap

  3. I found this a bit difficult to follow. I had to read it three times and still I’m not 100% on what’s going on. She answers the phone, has a spasm, and falls in the water and begins to drown. Personally, this wouldn’t have hooked me in any way, just left me a bit confused, as the arm spasm seems unrelated. Where is the critique of this piece?? It’s obviously not perfect, and I thought critiquing was the purpose of this.

  4. I felt a great range of emotions with the piece, but I can’t understand why missing this important call caused her to drown.

    Did she hit her head on the diving board? Did the phone explode in her ear? Did she have a stroke as she recognized the number? Was the phone poisoned? Maybe the sunscreen caused the Nerve Damage?
    Was Jester in on it all along? I’ll bet you money it has to do with the ring-tone…

    The asterisk threw me too.

    Regardless, I want to read on. Well done.

  5. This writer has obvious strengths, specifically the use of language. I liked particularly Like a continuous first breath on an icy winter’s morning. Specific and telling.

    I share some of the confusion others have expressed, however. I had to re-read this a couple of times. It ought to be clearer what is happening and why. I do understand the strategy of preserving some mystery here. So it’s a delicate balance.

    A point of confusion arose for me with these two lines:

    Before the device reached her ear, it dropped from her hand, bouncing off the board and splashing into the water below.
    The muscles of her forearms quivered as a freakish spasm passed through her body

    These seem to me backward. She drops the phone, THEN spasms. So I don’t see a connection. Transpose the sentences, and I do.

    Smaller matters:

    Any moment the call that would make it happen. (incomplete sentence)

    And is that a semi-colon I spy? I have a small opinion on that.

  6. Look! I’m not the one being “Mean”. It feels great! It ain’t Gilstrap, but it’s one of the better ones I’ve gotten tossed my way. Lots more good than not. Gilstrap makes me wonder if I shoudl have read it. just kidding.

  7. i’m thinking a taser. would that explain the whole ‘can’t drown until you’re unconscious’ thing?

  8. This is from my WIP.
    Thanks for the input. Very much appreciated.
    I was flying high on some complimentary feedback and the fact the JRM said it was “readable”. (I’d be honored by both the key chain and the handshake!)
    JG, JSB and others brought me back to earth. Appreciate the feedback.
    JG your knowledge of the pathophysiology of drowning is on point. Is she drowning? Perhaps not.
    JSB – point taken. Thank you.
    In an effort to cadge even more great feedback i’m including the 150 words that complete this scene in its current form. There are some elements that relate to story but they may not be needed here. Perhaps should be deleted?

    (continiued)Like a continuous first breath on an icy winter’s morning, but it was not air. And it did not stop.
    The frantic barks of her Jester faded water-muted and distant. Fierce pressure grew in her head and chest–like an over-inflated balloon on the cusp of bursting.
    Her unmoving eyes aligned upward as she sank. The pool’s surface a wind-riffled window. Her body settled on the pool’s bottom. Silence but for her heart’s thundering frenzy. Temples and chest a drum solo of pounding agony. Her awareness drifting…fading.
    Fingers clamping onto her arms. Her body pulled upward. Hope surging. Head and face launching free of the water. The breath she willed herself to take would not happen. Her body disconnected. Must breathe.
    Agony expanding. Vision narrowing. A creased face intruding. Upside down and looking as if lit by a flashbulb. Eyes. A voice. The words dissolving.
    Her mind locked-in, sobbing, begging, feeling.
    Blinding bright. Everywhere whiteness.
    Thoughts stuttering and lost.
    The world blinked to black and the pain was gone.

    Very much appreciate this great opportunity. Thank you to all.

    P.S. Victoria – will send a section your way and you can see if you want to read it all.

  9. Very interesting and caught my interest right away. Like the visuals. Had to reread the paragraph about her grabbing the phone, then it made me wonder if someone had rigged the phone to shock her.

  10. TJC: Damned good start. The critics are all trying to help, whether or not you need it. It’s all subjective… well most of it. Sure it could be tweaked, but I assume these are drafts, or WIPs and all should be fixed easily. Good work.

  11. JRM –
    Message heard and heeded.
    I have completed a first draft and first pass revision. Much work to do.

    I much appreciate your comments. Thank you.

    Likewise thanks to all other KZ’ers.
    TKZ is a great resource.

    Any who want to beta read and help me out with “Nerve Damage” please feel free to contact me.

  12. Gees!! We’re dealing with 360 words and the critics want beginning, middle and end. I’m no published novelist, but I’m under the impression that the point of the hook is to raise curiosity, to arouse questions in the reader’s mind so s/he will keep on reading. No doubt the answers to the questions raise will be found as the story unfolds. The critics need to keep persective

  13. THIS WAS SMOKING!! OMG!! I just hope she wasn’t the heroine of the story, because this looked like the ending with the bad guy getting what she deserved!

    I’m a little confused about where this was going, but I loved the prose. If the rest of this story is crafted as well as this page, I’d read more from this author. In a heartbeat.

  14. I’m late to the party – been busy this spring – but I have one comment to add.

    First, great work! I definitely want to read anything that passes the JRM blockade. Second, I agree with Kathleen. It’s not clear who this person is – the villain getting her just desserts, a would-be victim, or the protagonist. It’s a great opener, but I’m not convinced to root for her yet. We need at least an additional line clarifying her status but as JSB said, it’s a delicate balance if you’re purposely trying to hold back on sharing information.

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